Scott Merk, 40, is a veteran who suffers from crippling degenerative disc disease, impacting the lumbar and sacral vertebrae of his spine, both knees, both wrists and his shoulders. He and his wife, Brenda, and their 12-year-old son found themselves in a financial crisis when social programs wouldn't cover the vast majority of his medical costs. Facing eviction and long waiting times for public housing and help from Social Security, they took the controversial step of asking for donations on a blog they set up. The eviction date of Aug. 15 fell after the Weekly's press deadline; this interview was conducted with five days to spare.

What's the current situation?

Well, the biggest thing right now is my wife's paycheck. Her paycheck goes to pay for health care: medical supplies, meds--whatever. When we applied for Social Security disability, they told us to apply for welfare health care, AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System). So we applied for it, and while they covered some, they didn't cover the stuff that's the most expensive. Right now, we're spending roughly $750 a month just on health care that isn't covered by AHCCCS. So, literally, she works as many hours as they'll give her, and it all goes to pay health care. We were told we could file an appeal, and we filed it. Yesterday, we got a determination back, and they denied it, saying that while I'm an eligible veteran, not able to work--blah, blah, blah--my diagnosis isn't (eligible). And then they had the gall to ask me if I applied for disability. So Social Security is telling us to go to AHCCCS, and AHCCCS is telling us to go to Social Security and Medicare. There's kind of a hole in between. To be honest, I didn't believe it when I heard people talk about it.

About what?

The hole. That there's a certain class of American citizen that can be completely told, "We can't help you." I thought no matter how bad things got, there was always something there. And there isn't. I have people e-mailing me, writing me letters every day, saying we went through the same thing and lost everything, because my husband died or we were disabled in a car accident.

What line of work is your wife in?

She right now works for one of the major airlines, and she got her job as a reservation specialist, I guess you call it--but they set her up an office in the house, so she can help me with whatever I need. And then she can take as many hours as she can--or not take them, depending on what's going on. They've been great. When my dad died on the Fourth of July, we were trying to take a loan, I don't know, donate a kidney--something--to get home. And she called in to take time off to get back to Wisconsin, and they said, "No, no. We'll fly you first class. We'll get you there." Through this whole thing, they have been the best.

What are you going to do if you, your wife and your son are evicted?

On Tuesday? We literally have some suitcases with what we can carry, and (we'll put them) in a car--and ... I don't know. They told us, "You can go to a homeless shelter." We went down there and took a look at that. I wouldn't send criminals to that place. And then we got the stats from the city government, the number of beatings, thefts, murder. I'm not taking my wife there. That's why we started the blog. Everywhere I turn, everywhere I go, people either tell me, "No, I can't help you" or "Go see somebody else." I went to the mayor; I went to the governor of the state. I went to the City Council; I went to our Ward 4. Everybody tells me to go to Tucson Community Services (Department) or go to low-income housing--(they) gave me a huge list. So we started calling them, just started at the beginning and started working through.

When did you stop working?

Last year. And that's the other thing--my wife and I, we didn't believe in getting on welfare. To me, it was almost embarrassing. I have to pull out a food-stamp card because I can't support my family. It's a constant kick in the teeth to say, "Look at me. I'm a failure." So we waited until everything was gone. We drained our 401(k); we drained all of our savings. We sold everything that we couldn't nail down. I use a cardboard box for a dresser. I have a couch that we sit on and a TV, and a car that just got appraised at $532. On Tuesday, we've got to be out, or we're going to be forcibly removed.

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